Re-Challenge FODMAPs in a Way That Suits You

The Low FODMAP Diet can seem very strict and complicated, especially when you start to re-challenge FODMAPs. That’s exactly what I thought of it when I first heard about it. However, from studying it and getting to really understand it, I’ve realised it’s not. The whole point of the diet is to help you find out your unique triggers. Therefore, the whole diet is meant to be tailored to you!

Last week I wrote about when you should start to re-challenge FODMAPs (the second phase of the diet - read more about it here) and how you should go about doing it. This phase is quite complicated, I’m not going to lie, so it IS much easier to do if you follow a plan. That’s why I wrote the post..to try and give you a plan that would help.

However, I also stressed that this plan doesn’t have to be followed to the tee. There are many ways you can tailor it so it works better for you.

 

WAYS TO TAILOR THE PHASE TO YOU

 

1. OTHER FOOD INTOLERANCES OR LIFESTYLE CHOICES

FODMAPs may not be the only thing you have to consider in your diet. You might have intolerances to other foods or you might choose to eat in a certain way due to personal preferences! This might mean there are other foods or food groups you’ve been excluding in addition to FODMAPs. If that’s the case, it’s a good idea to prioritise & re-challenge FODMAPs that contain the nutrients you’ve been lacking.

TAILORING THE PHASE TO YOU:

  • If you’re Vegan or Vegetarian:

    • You might be lacking protein sources, so I would prioritise re-challenging these first.

    • Challenge legumes in one of your first ‘challenges’

    • Spend some extra time challenging protein rich foods, to determine tolerance level. Try different varieties and doses to see if there’s an amount you can handle

  • You have Diabetes

    • Your priority should be around adding in low GI, high fibre carbs to help with controlling your blood glucose.

    • During the fructan challenge, focus on whole wheat breads & pastas, for example.

  • You have other food intolerances

    • A lot of IBS sufferers also find fatty, acidic or spicy foods are a trigger. If this is you, avoid these when you re-challenge FODMAPs.

    • If you had been cutting something out because you suspected you were intolerant, it might be worth testing it again to re-assess your tolerance. A lot of people do this with gluten. They suspect that gluten affects them so cut it out but, after eliminating FODMAPs, they find out that it’s actually something else causing the symptoms and they can in fact tolerate gluten. I did this myself! I’d heard so much about how ‘bad’ gluten was that I assumed it must be causing my symptoms and cut it out. After I re-challenged FODMAPs, I found it was actually garlic and onions causing my terrible symptoms and that I can handle small amounts of gluten with no problems!

    • Obviously, avoid re-challenge anything you have a definite allergy to, or wheat if you’ve been diagnosed with Coeliac disease.

2. ANXIETY TO RE-CHALLENGE FODMAPS

After experiencing a relief in symptoms when eliminating FODMAPs, you might feel really anxious about adding them back in. This is so common, but you don’t need to let it stop you. (Side note: if you need a bit of convincing about how important it is to re-challenge FODMAPs, have a read of this post) On top of the normal anxiety you’d feel about this, it’s also been proven that stress and anxiety are more common among IBS sufferers, due to the ‘gut-brain’ axis. The gut-brain axis is a connection between your brain and your gut. What it means is that how you’re feeling in your brain (e.g. anxious) can affect how you feel in your gut.

This is particularly important to be aware of when you re-challenge FODMAPs. The reason is because it means that any stress or anxiety you have about re-challenging FODMAPs can actually cause gut symptoms itself. These symptoms may have nothing to do with the food you are re-challenging, but are caused by your anxiety. However, it’s easy to incorrectly assume it is the food you are challenging causing the symptoms.

TAILORING THE PHASE TO YOU:

  • To get around this, you could try doing ‘blinded challenges.’ This involves getting a family member or friend to help you out, and it minimises the effects of anxiety on your gut. What you’d do is get your family member to prepare meals containing the challenge food that you’re nervous about. They would then serve it to you without you knowing, e.g. putting a small amount of garlic in a meal. This sounds silly, but can really help counteract the effect of anxiety in this phase.

 

3. FOOD PREFERENCES

There might be foods that are high FODMAP that you love and are really missing from your diet. For me, I love avocado and I really missed it in the elimination phase. I also am addicted to a morning coffee and like it with just a little bit of milk. Buying lactose free milk and carrying it to work in a little pot was such a pain, that I was eager to try milk as soon as possible!

TAILORING THE PHASE TO YOU:

  • If there are foods you love and miss, re-challenge them sooner rather than later. If you miss milk, re-challenge lactose first. If you miss avocado, re-challenge sorbitol first!

 

4. SUSPECTED INTOLERANCES

You might have suspicions about which foods you can and can’t tolerate. A previous food diary or symptoms after a meal out might have lead you to think it’s certain FODMAPs causing your symptoms. For me, I was pretty sure that garlic would be a trigger. For you, it might be sorbitol or fructose.

TAILORING THE PHASE TO YOU:

  • I’d recommend challenging these foods you think will be a trigger towards the end of this phase. Challenge foods that you think you’ll tolerate well at the start. This will build up your confidence early on and give you a nice boost! You don’t want to challenge a food which gives you terrible symptoms straight away, as it’ll get you down and might mean you don’t want to continue.

 

SOME OTHER WAYS TO TAILOR THE RE-CHALLENGE PHASE TO YOU:

 

HOW MUCH DO YOU NORMALLY EAT?

If you normally only have a bit of milk in your coffee and maybe a scoop of ice cream every now and then, consider this when re-challenging lactose. The table might suggest a portion size of 250ml, but it doesn’t make sense to have this much if you never normally would. I’d recommend following the suggestions up to the amount you’d normally consume and then stopping there.

 

WHAT FOODS DO YOU NORMALLY EAT?

If there’s a food you eat all the time that isn’t a ‘re-challenge’ food, or that hasn’t even been tested for FODMAP content, make up your own challenge. Don’t avoid the food forever because you’re scared. Just make up your own challenge around it. Try the food at half the serving size you’d normally have. If you tolerate it, increase it to your normal serving size! This diet is all about trial and error.

 

DO YOU HAVE ANY BIG EVENTS PLANNED?

If you’re giving a big presentation or you’ve got a birthday meal planned, I’d avoid re-challenging on that day. These events can make it hard to challenge exact portion sizes. Also, the nerves associated with big events can cause effects in your gut and then interfere with your re-challenge results!


SUMMARY

Although it is incredibly helpful to follow a guide to help you re-challenge FODMAPs, there are lots of ways you can tailor this phase so it works for you. Tailoring it to you will make it easier for you to stick with it and will make the results even more useful for you.

You can tailor the phase around all of these things:

  • If you are vegan/vegetarian or have diabetes or other food intolerances

  • If you’re anxious to re-challenge FODMAPs

  • Your food preferences

  • The FODMAPs you suspect will trigger you

  • The quantities of the test foods that you’d normally eat

  • Foods you eat all the time

  • Any big events you have planned


If you need any help with tailoring this phase to you, please get in touch with me! If you want to read up on the Low FODMAP Diet, from the university that founded it, head here.

Thanks so much for taking the time to read this. If you have any questions on re-challenging FODMAPs, let me know below.

Sophie x

Sophie BibbsComment